Malpractice in 1909 Jamestown

Many routine illnesses of today were difficult to cure in the early 1900s.

JSSP Keith Norman Column Sig

Using magnets for healing has been a questionable practice since the Middle Ages.

Paracelsus theorized in the 14th century that if a magnet could attract iron, it could also attract disease and draw it right out of the body.

Jamestown had its own “magnetic healer” in 1909.

J.E. Perry advertised in the local newspapers that he “treated all chronic diseases.” He was bold enough to even guarantee his work. He practiced out of an office in the Lutz Building in downtown Jamestown. Folks could call for an appointment by calling 139.


“Will give $500 for any case of appendicitis I can not cure with knife or drugs, if brought to me in time,” read an advertisement for his services in a Jamestown newspaper.

I don’t know how his record was on any burst appendix. It is quite likely that anyone who counted on magnets to cure their appendix wasn’t around to collect when the process failed.

Perry also seemed to have some problems with other medical issues folks brought to him.

Fred Tetz of Wells County came to Jamestown to get some relief from the rheumatism in his right arm. The fee for the magnetic treatments was $54. Adjusted for inflation, that would amount to about $1,600 today.

Tetz claimed Perry had made the same guarantee for the treatment of Tetz’s bad arm although the treatment didn’t seem to provide any relief. By the fall, Tetz went to some of the more conventional medical practitioners in Jamestown and had the arm operated on with good results.

Tetz then sued Perry for $16,000 in District Court in Jamestown.

That would be the equivalent of about $50,000 today when adjusted for inflation.

It would seem there was no “Perry Mason” moment in the case as Perry had moved to Portland, Oregon, and did not mount a defense in the case. Tetz was issued a $16,000 default judgment although it isn’t known if he ever collected any money.


Many routine illnesses of today were difficult to cure in the early 1900s. Training for doctors wasn’t as thorough as today and medical tools like X-rays, lab testing and even the hypodermic needle were relatively new inventions.

All were newer inventions than the magnet but more effective at helping people.

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